Professionals occupy a special place in American society. Doctors are highly regarded, are very well paid, and are given many special privileges (like special license plates that allow them to park in “no-parking areas”). Lawyers, on the other hand, are often regarded with suspicion or as the source of many of society’s ills. They are not well-liked, even if they do run the government. Accountants are considered dull but necessary. See the section on Conducting a Business in the United States for more detail on lawyers and accountants, Government and Law for even more on lawyers, and the section on Medical Care for specifics on the health professions. Architects and interior designers are covered in Living in an American Community.
Lawyers are used for several key personal transactions. If you have property of any value, you should have a will, otherwise you are subject to the uncertainties of separate property succession laws in 50 different states. You’ll need to involve a lawyer in almost any real estate sale or purchase. If you sustain a personal injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, you’ll need a lawyer.
Accountants. Private individuals use accountants primarily for tax planning and tax return preparation. There are also tax return companies which can help you at tax time. The American income tax structure is extremely complex, and a good accountant can legally save you thousands of dollars in taxes. If you work for a salary and don’t own property, don’t have a lot of medical expenses and keep your financial affairs fairly simple, you might get by with a tax preparation service once a year rather than an accountant. In most large cities, lawyers and accountants of many different ethnic backgrounds are available to serve their own groups.
Lawyers and accountants advertise in local newspapers, are listed in the Yellow Pages and are easy to find on the Internet. Your local public library can provide you with secure sources for finding the right professional for your needs. As for all services, shop around carefully and get recommendations from satisfied customers. Avoid giving large cash deposits for future services.
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